Gene Roddenberry Never Wanted Riker To Smile, Not Even At These Star Trek: TNG Season Four Bloopers
Kids these days, they’ve got it easy. They’ve got the these fancy-schmancy world-wide intertubes to find them anything they damn well like, from the population of Moldova, to the capital city of Moldova, to pornography shot exclusively in Moldova. (It’s possible I may have been scammed by my Moldovan internet provider.) But back in my day, if you wanted to see a blooper reel for your favorite shows, you had to go to a convention and do business with a shady bootleg dealer who occasionally tried to sell you snuff films. Now you can just look up at the top of this page and boom, free bloopers from Star Trek: The Next Generation season four. Now get the hell off of my lawn.
As it turns out, however, the character of William Riker as originally envisioned wouldn’t even crack a smile at any of that. Speaking to the A.V. Club, actor Jonathan Frakes revealed that Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s original vision of Riker was different from the character he eventually became in one small but important way. Namely, Roddenberry never wanted Riker to smile. Frakes explains:
Gene Roddenberry, the late Great Space Bird Of The Galaxy, had asked me originally not to smile, that he wanted Riker to be played with what he referred to as a Gary Cooper, Midwestern glint—not a scowl, but not smiling. And my nature is to smile, so I looked, or thought I looked, very uncomfortable—certainly in the first season—because I was playing Roddenberry’s wish, his note.
In retrospect, you can totally see Frakes trying his best to play that more stoic version of Riker, but thankfully he eventually evolved the character past that. Riker’s wry grin and playful nature became a huge part of his appeal, and it’s hard to imagine Frakes sticking with the stiff-upper-lip version of Number One for seven long seasons and several movies.
Frakes adds that series writer Maurice Hurley eventually approached him to find out what sort of things the actor was into. Frakes’ love of jazz and skill with the trombone were then incorporated into his character as well. And then there was the beard, which Frakes said he grew simply because he hated shaving, but which Gene approved of as “nautical” and “decorative.” Never underestimate the power of the beard.
The bloopers have hit the net to help promote the Blu-ray release of Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Four, which just hit shelves yesterday. As with the previous Blu-ray releases, has been remastered and the effects given a digital spit-polish. In addition to the 26 episodes of the fourth season, the set also includes a sizable collection of bonus features:
Featurettes: Mission Overview: Year Four (reveals the challenges in resolving the cliffhanger episode “The Best of Both Worlds”; provides a whimsical look at the Robin Hood-themed “Q-Pid”; and celebrates the historic 100th episode with Gene Roddenberry); Selected Crew Analysis: Year Four (an in-depth look at the departure of Wesley Crusher; cast members discuss their experiences performing stunts; and a profile of Jennifer Hetrick as “Vash”); Departmental Briefing, Year Four: Production (a behind-the-scenes look at directors Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, and David Livingston; includes a special makeup section featuring Brent Spiner); New Life and New Civilizations (an inside look at creating alien landscapes and shooting on location; also explains the challenges of shooting the effects-packed episode “The Best of Both Worlds”); Chronicles from the Final Frontier (a discussion of Season Four’s most extraordinary episodes and characters with preeminent writers Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga, and Jeri Taylor)
Now I just wonder what Roddenberry thought of Frakes’ unusual approach to furniture…